The Northern Light

Ebola: How Serious is It?

Lydia Huitt, Staff Writer

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Rev. Dr. Manjerngie Ndebe grew up in Bolahun Lofa County in Northwestern Liberia. She then left everything she knew and eventually fled to America in 1973 as a refugee from the civil war that broke out in her home country.  Now, every Saturday, one can find her sitting outside of her office, in the chilly fall weather of Michigan, with a sign that says, “Fight Ebola!”

Dr. Ndebe said the subject of Ebola, “hits close to home.” On September 21, she lost her son to the deadly sickness. The disease, however, did not stop there. Twenty two of her extended family members also fell victim to Ebola.

According to the Center for Disease Control, Ebola is “a rare and deadly disease caused by infection.” The Mayo Clinic website says that the beginning symptoms of the virus are fever, chills, weakness, and can eventually result in vomiting and bleeding through openings such as the eyes and nose. Dr. Ndebe said the disease is, “very contagious. You touch sweat, you touch saliva, you will get sick.”

Dr. Ndebe’s home, Liberia, has recently experienced massive outbreaks of Ebola. Because it is the fifth poorest country in the world, it does not have good health care, which is resulting in many lives being lost. “They closed all the major hospitals and turned them into Ebola centers. People are dying from diabetes, hypertension, cholera… Women are having complications with delivery,” said Ndebe.

It’s not really something to be laughed at. It’s serious. It takes lives away.”

— Alexis Rasnacke (10)

Although the city of Portage does not have a plan specifically catered to fight Ebola, there is a generic disease prevention plan. Portage Public Schools Community Relations Manager, Mrs. Sarah Baker, stated, “We don’t have an Ebola plan, [because] the likelihood [of an outbreak] is pretty small, but we have all kinds of plans with the health department.” Baker also went on to say that the city has planned to shut down schools and turn them into health centers.

Then what does this have to do with us? Despite the fact that the outbreaks are taking place thousands of miles away, we still need to take it seriously and do what we can to help out. Dr. Ndebe is holding a “Walk Against Ebola” on Sat. Nov. 22. For more information on this, her office can be found at 451 West Milham Avenue, Portage, MI. T-shirts, bumper stickers, and lawn signs can also be purchased in support of this cause.

In addition to taking steps to combat Ebola, there are things we should not be doing. One of them is making light of the disease. PN sophomore Alexis Rasnacke said, “It’s not really something to be laughed at. It’s serious. It takes lives away.” Jordan Josten (11) also said, “It’s not even funny. It’s actually pretty serious.” Even though we have only lost a couple American citizens, the illness is still taking lives. The value of those lives does not change based on what country they are from. People are people, and they are all precious, regardless of their nationality.

There are action steps we can all take to combat this sickness. Perhaps consider buying a simple t-shirt or maybe get a group of friends and participate in the walk being organized by Dr. Ndebe. Ebola is a serious thing, but together we can make a difference.

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Ebola: How Serious is It?